Collaborative School Cultures

Okay. I know many educators are working from home these days and feeling a little isolated from their colleagues and students.  But even in an age of “social distancing” practices, we can continue to focus on creating the right environment.  In that environment, educators can all contribute to the overall success of their individual performance and the success of their peers.

In most settings, teamwork isn’t monitored or rewarded. Often, the work of teams goes unnoticed while the accomplishments of individuals are applauded. What we should be looking for today are educators who amplify the successes of their colleagues as well as their own students.  In the past, schools have primarily focused on individual effectiveness, and maybe it’s time for this to change.

I can remember when I started teaching in the 70s. I was hired as a fourth-grade  teacher. My neighbor taught third grade. She had a filing cabinet where she locked away all her lesson plans and ideas. She did not share because the environment was very competitive. Teachers were rated by unannounced visits from their principals, and many were afraid that only a certain number of superior ratings were given during a school year.  This belief, whether it was founded or not, worked against the idea of teacher collaboration. It is no wonder why so many teachers taught behind closed doors!

Today there is evidence that school environments that foster a culture of trust actually work to raise teacher effectiveness. Teacher collaboration – sharing resources, working together to create lessons, and talking about important issues through professional learning communities – actually improve the working environment and even test scores! Recognizing the value in the exchange of resources that includes ideas, materials such as books, articles, and online resources, and practical tips and support is important to create and sustain a collaborative school culture.

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